I remember Lego as a gender neutral building toy. This print advert from twenty years ago concurs.
Lego these days has themes such as Harry Potter, Alien Conquest and Pirates of the Caribbean. It seems these collections just weren’t selling to enough girls so a Lego marketing team conducted an unprecedented in-depth study into girls’ playing habits.
The study resulted in Lego Friends, five main characters and a variety of locations and props from their hometown, “Heartlake City”. Instead of the generic, blocky minifigs, these characters are more shapely. Below is one of the newer characters next to an older figure of Hermione from the Harry Potter set.
That looks like a 50% reduction in waist circumference and if I’m not wrong, boobs? Great! Good to get girls body conscious nice and early. Makes them easer to market to when they hit (pre) teen.
Not only that but the characters come in a variety of aspirational flavours such as “the smart girl”, “the animal lover,” “the beautician,” and “the singer”. Great, because it would be a shame if they were all smart girls, because being smart really should be regarded as some kind of cute affectation.
Kits include a beauty salon, vets, bakery and a splash pool. This below is, I guess, the bakery but looks more like a “Cafe Waitress” kit.
Sadly it’s not just the stereotypes that let it down. Lego used to be about building and creation, enabling the imagination. The research at Lego indicated girls want to identify with characters and play out stories, so even if this disguised Lego makes it into the shopping basket – the kind of play it encourages is less about making new things, and more about enacting stories, and with these pedestrian props, rather uninspiring ones.